At some time—nearly instantaneously, for me—driving your car to local cruise-ins and car shows gets boring. I appreciate that many people thrive on telling people about their cars from atop a lawn-chair thrown, but to me, cars were meant for mobile adventure. HOT ROD has enlivened this with 1,000-plus-mile driving events like Power Tour and Drag Week, but I also encourage going solo. Nothing, even the mechanical build-up process, can bond you to a vehicle like a road trip—or preferably many of them.
Here’s one of the goals I’ve picked: finding and visiting dragstrips or former track locations. I may have ripped this off from my friend Brian Lohnes (the NHRA announcer and host of Put Up or Shut Up on Motor Trend and Motorhead Garage on Velocity), or perhaps we both started around the same time. He’s forever going to smoke me with nearly 170 tracks visited so far, while my number is a weak 90 (though I’ve raced down 30 of them, trumping Lohnes by a lot). We’ve probably done 20 first-time visits together, including five during this year’s Drag Week. A few other guys have done dozens or hundreds more.
The “rules” are that any location that currently or formerly hosted an officially sanctioned drag race on paved ground is fair to add to our lists, as is an old dirt strip originally intended for passenger cars (yup, many tracks of the 1950s began on hardpack). Therefore, Woodward Avenue in Pontiac, Michigan, in front of M1 Concourse, counts because we have hosted three Roadkill Nights drag races on the street there. Same goes for the pit road at Kansas Speedway and the parking lot at the former Silverdome. While it’s significantly less rewarding, it also counts if you visit locations vacant of racing remnants. Been to the corner of Halstead and 42nd in Chicago? Well, then you’ve been to the former location of the Chicago International Amphitheater, where indoor drags were held three times from 1962 to 1964. Ever flown into John Wayne Airport in Orange Country, California? Then you’ve been to the scene of the Santa Ana drags, the first sanctioned track in the world. Add that one to your list.
The tracks with some archeological value are the best. I recall visiting Arizona’s Bee Line Dragway in the mid-1980s before the abandoned tower was either fenced or awash with graffiti (it was torn down in 2015). More recently, I was at former Raisin City Dragway in California, a track once managed by legendary promoter Blackie Gejeian, and marveled that the original tower still stood and the basement still had the markings for where the Christmas tree was stored. Online research showed that the building had been moved from a local airport where it was the control tower, adding to the lore. This also makes the point that the internet can be used to both discover and research many of these old locations.
Executing road-trip goals like mine will lead to discovery of your car, yourself, America in general, and interesting side notes such as small towns, junkyards, cars for sale, and much more. It’s one of the most enriching aspects of our hobby. I hope you dive in.
Here is B-Lohnes at the beyond-rustic Midlands Drag Strip in Lugoff, South Carolina.
SOURCE: HOT ROD
AUTHOR: David Freiburger